SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- Despite efforts to educate students about the effects of cyberbullying, the epidemic continues as a newer social media app affects hundreds of Sarasota County students -- many saying they feel victimized.
The app Yik Yak has taken bullying to new levels; it allows users to post anonymously, and its popularity among students at Riverview High, Pine View School, and Sarasota High has caused the school district to take action.
It all came to the surface two weeks ago, when Riverview High school administrators were made aware of anonymous rumors being spread through the app, which hundreds of students were using.
"Everyone would be like ‘look at what this person said about this person’, and when you looked around the cafeteria everyone was on their phones, looking at Yik Yak," says Riverview student Robyn Natherson.
Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you, according to the developer's website. It allows anyone -- within a 1.5 mile radius -- to share whatever they want with everyone, with no consequence.
"Back in the day, I might, if I didn't like you, I might put something on the bathroom wall and some people might see it, some people might not see it, some people might write comments next to it. Well Yik Yak is like taking that wall, but putting it on a billboard," says Riverview assistant principal Erin del Castillo.
Not only was the cyberbullying happening on school grounds, but also at Riverview High's choir competition in Lakeland, causing the choir director to get involved. Since the perpetrators would not come forward, she called off their performance.
"It was good to remind us that stuff like this is really hurtful," says student Jacob Taylor.
The school district got involved immediately, making it their mission to protect students. "We sent to the developer of Yik Yak, the GPS coordinates, the longitude and latitude of each of our middle schools and high schools, and they then built the geo fence around those longitudes and latitudes," says Darrell Reyka, with Sarasota County Schools security.
Sarasota County Schools already have a geo-mapping technology that measures weather conditions around the schools; this is similar technology that the developer uses to block the use of the app in certain locations.
Parents and students were notified of the app block.
"Behaviors of our kids concern me. I think the school did a great job of hearing about it and finding out about it and doing the appropriate things to shut it down," says parent Janet Clark.
Once the students leave school grounds, the app is no longer blocked. So moving forward, Sarasota County School’s security and administrators are urging parents to be aware of their student's social media interactions and apps they are using.
Official with the Manatee County School District tell ABC 7 that there have not been any reported incidents involving the app in their schools.